Pandemic Check-In: One Year On…

Kelsey’s 17th birthday was the last family outing we had before we shut the door on the outside world to keep our family safe. Yesterday, we celebrated her 18th birthday on the back deck, with everyone masked and distanced. She has in-person school so she has to exercise care around us. We are hopeful she can be vaccinated sometime soon and we’ll be able to hug her again safely. I know not everyone has to be (or can be) as careful as we have been—but I’ve already gone over why we made the choices we did; at this point I am grateful my family is safe, both here in Virginia and across the country, through Utah and on to California and Oregon. We’ve been very lucky— while we didn’t escape unscathed, most of us are ok.

We’re starting to dare to contemplate what the new normal will be like. I have no delusions about things returning to some mythical normal. I doubt I will ever be casual about hand-washing or crowded spaces ever again. I expect to wear a mask when I eventually fly again, and I think we are all more aware of the links in our societal chain that keep us going, fed, safe, and sound. It’s maybe not who we thought it was either—it’s work perhaps I shamefully took for granted. It’s grocery workers, postal workers, farm workers, nurses and nursing assistants, teachers, childcare workers, bus drivers, sanitation workers. I find myself robustly supporting pro-union movements—not just because of the pandemic, but man….case law is an eye-opener when it comes to exploitive labor practices and we’ve got to make some changes. As I know better, I am able to do better.

Law school continues to…do whatever it is that is happening each day. It’s hard to tell alone. I have less than a year until I am done, and that feels incredibly surreal. Like, how did that even happen in this weird extended collective experience we’re all stuck in? I don’t know. I’m taking six classes this semester (federal courts, constitutional law II, criminal procedure, legal profession, immigration, and a seminar court in legal literature) and it’s a lot, but it’s how I am planning to graduate in December. I’m open to changing plans if that proves too much, but for now…here we are. I want to walk with my cohort next May, even if I am officially done earlier. I really want to put on that fancy robe and dance across that dais with the people who came through this mess with me. I want to celebrate them as much as my own accomplishment, and it’s something that carries me when I want to quit. I want to quit far less often now than I once did, so that’s a thing that happens, I guess. Basically y’all? Law school is hard.

Bean, Jeff and I built a new crate for Dingus. He outgrew his puppy crate, and ordering a new one was crazy expensive, and then we didn’t have a spot to fit it. So we took matters into our own hands and I found the circular saw and don’t look too closely, but it fits under the dining room table out of the way, and Dingus likes it just fine. It cost less than $10 in hardware, and we had the wood. Feeling pretty okay about that ingenuity, even if it’s imperfect. Turns out I am not the best wood cutter. Maybe I should have been doing my reading for Monday instead of building a dog crate.

One of my quarantine discoveries (because for reals, cooking is my relaxing treat after hours of reading/studying) is tutorials by people in other countries. It is wonderful to find that while I may not understand the words, cooking is universal and as long as I’m generally familiar with the ingredients, I can follow along. I have learned things I wanted to know forever. Find a Vietnamese cook to show you how to make bánh xèo (crispy rice pancake stuffed with pork and veggies), or a Brazilian cook to show you pao de queijo (though Jon speaks Portuguese, I can follow the recipe for cheesy rice bread puffs without him) and I can make baleadas and pupusas from following Honduran and Salvadoran cooks. It’s been like finding a vein of gold and if you love food and love to cook, I highly recommend watching native-language cooks demonstrate their recipes.

The other thing that has been bringing me joy is one I save for a treat at the end of the day. After everything is done, I fall into bed and we watch an episode of The Muppet Show. When I was a kid, I would sneak next door to my aunt’s house, where she would let me watch it (Crazy Chicken Annie’s, which will surprise no one) and it brings a simple happiness that I haven’t felt in a very long time. It’s so weird. And creative. And purely what it is—and I love it so much. It’s an odd cavalcade of weirdly a-list stars and people I have never heard of, and it doesn’t matter at all, because there will be oysters singing, rocks singing, giant blue monster puppets eating opera stars, odd disco men clinging to trees while they sing and bear Muppets try to eat them, Elton John looking completely at home, and it’s just pure delight and I love it.

That’s my happy place for the week. That’s it. That’s what I’ve got. I hope you’re doing ok. I hope you’re hanging in there, and your mental health is doing alright. I hope you found your equivalent of cooking tutorials that bring you joy. If you, like me, were a child of the late 70s or early 80s, give the Muppet Show a try.

2 thoughts on “Pandemic Check-In: One Year On…

  1. One year in – that is hard to believe.
    It was almost a year ago that the kids and I boarded a plane back to Utah. We were there much longer than expected, only returning to Belarus, as a family, in September.
    We too, have been lucky. I have been able to telework. Our kids were able to online school last spring, at the start of this school year – and once back in Belarus, have been safely back in person (when your whole school is 200 students, preK to high school, it is easier to be safe – especially when class sizes are 4-6 and you can mandate masks, as a private school). They shut down as needed for Covid, and the back and forth has been pretty seamless. Gratefully.
    John was able to come home for a couple months – which I mentally needed. It broke up our time apart.
    Now together, we live – as best we can. Our kids go to school, safely. John goes to work, safely. I work from home, rarely leaving the house. We hope for a vaccine soon. And we adapt.
    I am not sure what the future looks like – will Alex do her senior year wearing a mask? That is her concern (fair!). When will I have to return to the office? (I hope not soon!). We soon have to make a decision on our next post – even though we have a year more here. That is hard to think about – moving to a new country, so many unknowns, when we can’t think much past tomorrow. But life continues forward, and I hope – I hope for a brighter tomorrow than today. I hope for a vaccine soon. I hope we continue to be lucky.
    And I appreciate everyone who has been forgotten – the medical workers, the grocery store workers, the delivery drivers (we even have our groceries delivered here!), a wonderful doctor here at the embassy, teachers (but I am so grateful I am not teaching right now!), doctors, nurses – with the realization we will all need to process this when all is said and done, because none of us have been left untouched.

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